Search for HQ2 Site Yields Valuable Intel for Amazon and Cities

Search for HQ2 Site Yields Valuable Intel for Amazon and Cities

Amazon’s announcement that it would be opening a second headquarters in North America kicked off a process that saw 238 cities apply for the opportunity to gain a projected 50,000 jobs and billions in construction projects for their economy. The Seattle-based tech giant has whittled the list of proposals down to 20 and will certainly have advantageous terms wherever HQ2 ends up being built, but Amazon is also benefitting from this process in some unseen ways—as are the cities that didn’t make the cut.

Nick Wingfield of the New York Times reports that a few of the submissions passed over for the recent list of finalists, including those of Kansas City, Montreal, and Detroit, earned favorable opinions from Amazon’s leadership even if they won’t be the site of the company’s second headquarters. For example, Montreal’s plan for attracting foreign talent impressed them, Kansas City outlined programs for teaching technical skills in schools and veteran hiring strategies that aligned with the company’s values and priorities, and Detroit impressed in a number of ways despite missing the cut, in part due to a lack of regional talent. As a result of putting their best foot forward, those cities could end up as future locations for an Amazon warehouse or satellite office.

“Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation,” Amazon’s head of economic development Holly Sullivan said in a statement.

The search has also given Amazon some hard-to-get information from a wide sample of North American municipalities about what their leaders are able and willing to offer in order to bring businesses into their cities. This information will be useful as the company continues to expand its operations across the globe. Wingfield notes that there are currently 300 warehouses and shipping centers in the United States and that number is growing quickly. There are also satellite offices, which Amazon calls “tech hubs,” that focus on specific areas such as a robotics, machine learning, or video game development.

Even if Amazon never comes calling, the 218 eliminated cities now have a ready-made proposal that they can pitch to other companies to see if they can attract them to move. While few companies have Amazon’s cachet or war chest, offering a slightly less generous package of enticements to a mid-tier or regional corporation could benefit a local economy as well. Cities, regions, and states have a strong interest in attracting talent and business investment. For business leaders, particularly those whose companies are looking into expansion, there may be value in reaching out to these rejected cities to see if they can make a deal.